Translating the Internet

A few days ago Allie, my 13 year old daughter, and I had fun translating phrases into Haitian Creole on Google Translate and playing back the audio to practice our budding language skills to prepare for our upcoming trip. I can’t tell you how surprised I was to see that Haitian Creole (or Kreyol) is one of Google’s translated languages. Not only could we translate phrases, but we can also put the language of choice icon on our browser toolbar and by clicking on it, translate any web page we’re visiting into that language. Amazing.

Another great tool I found is This site allows videos to be translated into hundreds of languages, and yes, Haitian Creole is one of them. Simply upload a video, type in your subtitles, and then click for translation of the subtitles.

Isabelle, my daughter who is a junior at Pomona College, just sent me a paper she’d written for a media studies class. One of her paragraphs caught my attention: “Because publishing is a profit-driven market, the texts that are chosen to be printed and distributed are only those that are believed to have the best ability to reach those who have money. This has lead to the fatality of linguistic diversity. Those who speak a narrowly spoken language are not being addressed and are not given an opportunity to be heard.”

The translation tools I mentioned have the ability to change that. Suddenly those voices that have not been heard can be shared and translated into hundreds of languages for the world to read. Thanks Google Translate, thanks, for tools to create linguistic democracy.

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